The Celtics continue their 4 game West Coast road trip with a stop in Los Angeles to continue their rivalry with the LA Lakers. This is the 2nd and final game between these two teams this season. The Lakers came from as many as 18 down to beat the Celtics 129-128 in Boston on February 7.
In that game, Former Celtic Rajon Rondo hit the game winner after a scramble for the ball that included a few Laker fouls that weren’t called, according to the Last 2 Minute Report. The Lakers have only lost the season series to the Celtics 3 times since the 2019-2000 season. The Lakers are 5-5 in their last 10 meetings with the Celtics.
The Celtics remain in 5th place in the East, 1 game behind the Sixers, who lost to the Rockets on Friday. They are also 2 games behind the Pacers for 3rd. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and have won their last 2 games. They are 16-16 on the road and 12-13 vs Western Conference teams.
The Lakers are 11th in the West, 6.5 games behind the 8th place Clippers and basically out of the playoff picture. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and are on a 4 game losing streak. They are 18-15 at home and 9-12 vs Eastern Conference teams. Including their time in Minneapolis, these two teams have played 289 times. The Celtics lead the series all time 159-130.
Kyrie Irving missed Wednesday’s game vs the Kings but is feeling better and expects to play in this game. Lonzo Ball (ankle) and Tyson Chandler (neck) are both out for the Lakers. Kyle Kuzma (ankle) went through 75% of practice and is a game time decision for this game. Lance Stephenson (foot) is questionable. Brandon Ingram will miss the rest of the season due to blood clots in his arm, which can be very serious.
With the Lakers out of the playoff picture, they have said that they plan to limit LeBron’s minutes for the rest of the season as well as rest him on back to back games. I’m not sure if he will take kindly to being limited against one of his long time rivals and Kyrie Irving’s team, however.
Probable Celtics Starters
Terry Rozier III
Robert Williams III
Kyrie Irving (thigh) probable
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Probable Lakers Starters
Kentavious Caldwell Pope
Kyle Kuzma (ankle) game time decision
Tyson Chandler (neck) out
Lonzo Ball (ankle) out
Brandon Ingram (blood clots) out
Lance Stephenson (foot) questionable
Two Way Players
Kyrie Irving vs Rajon Rondo
Rondo is averaging 9.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists. He always plays his best on national TV and also against his former teams. In the first game against the Celtics, he had 17 points and 10 assists. He made 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and also hit the game winner. You always have to pay close attention to National TV Rondo.
Jason Tatum vs LeBron James
Tatum has a lot of experience covering James, including last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron is averaging 27.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.0 assists. In the first meeting LeBron led the Lakers with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. As always, LeBron is next to impossible to contain but if Tatum can at least slow him down, that would be a good thing.
Gordon Hayward vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Hayward has been playing well on this trip and hopefully will continue that trend as the Celtics need him to be back to his old self to go far in the playoffs. In the last game between these two teams, Caldwell-Pope had 17 points, hitting 5 three pointers. Hayward needs to win this battle off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.7. The Lakers aren’t terrible defensively as they are 13th with a defensive rating of 109.1. The Celtics didn’t play very good defense in their first meeting, allowing the Lakers to hit a franchise record 22 three pointers. The Celtics need to play tough lock down defense in this game and not allow the Lakers to gain any confidence.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and energy and the Celtics will need both to out-rebound the Lakers. They need to crash the boards and keep the Lakers from getting second chance points and fast breaks. The Celtics are averaging 44.8 rebounds per game while the Lakers are averaging 46.4 rebounds per game. The Lakers are 2nd in points in the paint with 56.4 per game. The Celtics have to crash the boards to limit their put backs and second chance baskets.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to be aggressive in going to the basket, in diving for loose balls, and on defense. They have to aggressively crash the boards. They have to be the team that wants it more. They can’t afford to let the Lakers be the team that plays harder.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to share the ball and make the extra pass to find the best shot possible, But, they also must take care of the ball because the Lakers are 3rd in fast break points with 19.1 per game. If the Celtics get sloppy and turn the ball over, the Lakers will certainly make them pay.
Play the Right Way - The Celtics finally found their grit and heart in their last 2 wins. They have played together on offense and on defense and have moved the ball and made the right play. They have stuck together and have played hard for 48 minutes. They have to continue this if they want to get a win in this game.
On the Road - . The Celtics need to come into the game focused, especially the young guys who sometimes struggle on the road. They need to block out the distractions of playing in a hostile arena and focus on playing the right way. Hopefully they haven’t let the LA nightlife take away from their focus on the game.
Celtic Pride - “Beat LA” is one of the most iconic chants in sports. This is a storied rivalry and no matter the circumstances, the Celtics always want to beat the Lakers. It’s a matter of pride and the Celtics need to get the job done and “Beat LA” in this game. There is also a matter of avenging the earlier loss in Boston and not allowing the Lakers to sweep the series.